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Daily News - Monday, 15 December 2008

President Fernandez off to Brazil
President Leonel Fernandez flies to Brazil today for meetings with heads of state and high-ranking officers of Latin America and the Caribbean, all invited by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Four meetings will be held from 16-17 December integrating heads of state and government from 33 Latin American and Caribbean countries that will discuss regional integration, as reported by the Brazilian Foreign Ministry.
The meetings are those of the Common Market of the South (Mercosur), the Union of South American Nations (Unasur), the Rio Group and the Latin America and the Caribbean countries (CALC) group. The summits will take place in Costa de Sauipe, some 110 km north of Salvador de Bahia, northwest Brazil, the official agenda shows.
The Mercosur meeting will discuss measures against the international financial crisis and the creation of a fund for small and medium companies.
The Unasur will review the performance of the group during the political crisis in Bolivia. The leaders will also study the proposal of creating a South American council of defense and the election of its general secretary.
The Rio Group will make formal the entrance of Cuba into the group.
The CALC will study the impact of the international financial crisis on the region, in order to set a common position for the summit of the Americas in April 2009. According to the Brazilian Foreign Ministry, some bilateral meetings are also expected to take place during the two days.
The DR is a member of the Rio Group and the Latin America and the Caribbean countries (CALC) group.

Gasoline prices drop
More good news for local vehicle owners and many businesses in general. For the tenth consecutive week, the price of fuel in the DR has declined significantly. This week, the price of premium gasoline dropped RD$8.40, regular gasoline went down RD$6, premium diesel RD$7.60 and regular diesel RD$9.80. Avtur was also down RD$8.89, kerosene RD$7.20, and propane RD$3.21.
So, the current fuel prices are: Premium gasoline RD$118.50, regular gasoline RD$109, premium diesel RD$110 and regular diesel RD$102 the gallon. Propane gas is selling for RD$50, avtur sells for RD$80.26 and kerosene RD$100.
News reports indicate that Venezuelan petroleum has dropped to a US$31.36/barrel low on Friday, a far cry from the US$147 price in July of this year.

Electronic signature
The government has entrusted the Santo Domingo Chamber of Commerce with the task of certifying electronic signatures in the Dominican Republic. This opens the door to trade beyond our borders, says Juan Bancalari, president of the Chamber of Commerce. The Dominican Telecommunications Institute (Indotel) will be launching the Digifirma project this Tuesday.
Bancalari stressed that the electronic signature is an indispensable tool in this era of trade without frontiers, knowledge and information society, and is why the Chamber of Commerce took on the challenge of providing this to serve the business, economic, social, academic and political sectors in the DR. Bancalari says this tool will strengthen their competitiveness in a world dominated by technology.

Aviary gets US advice
Two specialists from the Bronx Zoo and the United States National Aviary visited Santo Domingo to help the National Zoo reconstruct its aviary, as part of a cooperation agreement. Steven J. Sarro, director of Animal Programs and Steven Latta, assistant director of Conservation and Field Research at the National Aviary visited to help the zoo develop its work program to restore the aviary to its initial splendor. The National Aviary is the premier bird park in the United States.
National Zoo director Patricia Toribio hosted the two experts. Also as part of cooperation agreements with the Bronx Zoo, David Powell, a world famous animal curator, also visited recently to help the zoo with its new programs.
Toribio is continuing programs initiated by her predecessor David Arias who rescued the zoo and restored it as one of Santo Domingo's leading attractions.

Haiti's uncertain future
The director of the University of Chile's International Studies Center, Juan Emilio Cheyre, expressed his concerns about the situation in Haiti in an op-ed contribution to Listin Diario on Friday, 12 December. He says he was involved with the peace-making process and recently returned to Haiti, which motivated him to write the piece. Cheyre calls on members of the international community to take a new approach towards Haiti.
He says that Haiti currently survives on international aid funding, and there is an absolute stagnation in the country's institutions. "I think that in this case the conventional concept of sovereignty should evolve given the existence of a failed state," he comments. He suggests that different options should be evaluated for a transitory administration - de facto trust or shared sovereignty. While he says this is a drastic option, he says that there is an urgent need to generate governance with institutions that do away with the status quo.
Cheyre believes that the international community that is funding Haiti has the right to ask the Preval government for greater efficiency and accountability.
He estimates the aid Haiti receives at around US$500 million, and in addition there is about US$134 million in international loans for services and Haitians living abroad send back US$1.3 billion in remittances.
Nevertheless, he comments that all the development indexes show that there is no progress. He says that while Haiti posted a growth of 3.21% in 2007, it had 0% private investment, the GDP per capita is only US$1,840, working population is only 49.6%, university graduates 1.1%, and the literacy rate is very low. Most people earn around US$2 a day, life expectancy is 51.5 years and malnutrition affects 47% of the population.
"This scenario presents a serious migration problem for the Dominican Republic. A thousand Haitians cross the border every day and add to the two million Haitians who already live there," he writes. He explains: "The reason for migration is clear: they are looking for opportunities and the consequences are unpredictable, given the impact on a neighbor that although better off cannot satisfy its own needs."
Cheyre observes that Chile has been contributing to the peacekeeping process since 2005, and as a result Chilean private and public institutions have the right and the duty to demand that the country needs to move on from the current rhetoric to an urgent phase of recovery of the capacity to create institutions, concrete plan and empower responsible players.

Not in the DR
Last week the Spanish EFE press agency reported an incident in which it mentions that a Dominican supposedly amputated a Haitian man's hands. The video is being distributed in an email claiming that this was an example of the violence against Haitians in the DR.
But a closer examination of the video makes it obvious that this had not happened in the DR, says journalist Fausto Rosario Adames of Clave who observes that the people featured were speaking in a South American, probably a Colombian accent, and were clearly not Dominican.
El Caribe newspaper concurs that there is something fishy about the emails claiming that the video portrays an incident in a rural part of the country, and that the person with the machete is Dominican and the victim Haitian.
The Haitian ambassador in the DR visited the Police, demanded an explanation and the National Police denied that the video had been filmed here.
Police Chief Major General Rafael Guillermo Guzman Fermin said that it is an old video and the people portrayed are neither Dominican nor Haitian. Nevertheless, the 30-second video seeks to give the impression that a Dominican had cut off a Haitian's hand.
"And as expected, the protest voices of the so-called defenders of Haitian rights, have come forth and those who see in this a strategy of political pressure, and a new intent to discredit the country in the eyes of the international community," comments El Caribe. The newspaper calls for an investigation and laments that an unproven incident now is being used as proof to cause a rift between two sister countries. El Caribe urges the authorities to work together to stop unscrupulous people motivated by perverse interests from succeeding in ruining the coexistence based on mutual respect, harmony and solidarity.
Meanwhile, Diario Libre says, "If one wanted proof, there it is, that there are sectors interested in fueling the flame of a conflict between Dominicans and Haitians," concludes Diario Libre in a page two editorial.

Dominicans and banking
A poll on remittances, migration and banking in the DR has found that 55.1% of Dominicans do not have a bank account in the DR. The poll was conducted in June. Manuel Orozco, of Inter-American Dialogue, based in Washington, D.C. says that 67.7% said they didn't have enough money to keep an account open. Likewise, 9.4% said they did not need an account, and 3.5% said they did not bank because there was no bank nearby. Some 1,003 Dominicans were polled.
Of the total, 6.7% said they did not trust banks, 5.5% said they had had a bad experience with banking, and 1.9% said the process of having a bank account was too complicated.
Conversely, 48.6% said they kept savings in a bank. Of those who keep their money in a bank, 17.3% said they did so for a business, 14% because they had a savings account and 24% said they deposited funds when they had money left over from their wages. 13.6% said they had borrowed money, and 26.6% said they had no financial commitments with a bank. Some 19.5% said that they saw banks as being for the privileged sectors to which they offer the better deals.

Questions asked re a court ruling
Diario Libre focuses on a recent court sentence that ruled in the favor of allotting lands in the National Park of the East to a group of Spanish investors. The newspaper comments that one of the investors is Carlos Sanchez Hernandez, a partner in Compania de Inversiones Trubia, which benefited from the ruling by the Higher Land Court's Central Department. The court ordered the property registration of 3.4 million square meters located in Higuey in an area that the state claims is part of a protected area, the National Park of the East. Another partner in the company, Daniel Antonio Minaya Rodriguez, also in the companies Trubia and Tecnicas Electricas de Desarrollo Integral, which were allotted the land, is a retired Dominican Municipal League official who does not have the financial resources to own a multi-million dollar property.
Government lawyer Fermin Casilla Minaya told Diario Libre that Trubia was created with RD$2,500 in paid capital and RD$25,000 in social capital. He insists that Carlos Sanchez is the owner of Inversiones Trubia. Carlos Sanchez, along with another 60 individuals, made press headlines for his involvement in the alleged fiscal fraud against the tax department in Spain for EUR4.8 million. The case is known as the Marbella Case. In the DR, Trubia is presided by Ignacio Coronado Ruiz and Andres Lietor Martinez.
Casilla Minaya said that the contract that the court validated was for US$19.9 million, and that Daniel Antonio Minaya Rodriguez is just a front for the company.
Casilla Minaya said that the court ignored the Ministry of Environment's clearly stated opinion that the lot is part of the National Park of the East protected area.
Supreme Court president Jorge Subero Isa said that if there was a violation of the law in case of the National Park of the East territory, the Third Chamber of the court could be convened.

Higuey: Mecca of false land titles
Higuey has been described as a Mecca for forging land titles, where just in parcel 367-B there is a portion of land with 15 "claimants" fighting over its possession, as reported in Diario Libre.
Also in the area there are property lines over property lines of land. The State Lawyer for the Higher Land Court, Fermin Casilla Minaya, said that lately in the facilities of Law 108 regarding the registration of land titles, there have been "encumbrances upon encumbrances."
Casilla says he does not know just how these new cadastral designations on the same properties are being obtained. He said, "Higuey is a Mecca for false documents. There, above all, in parcel 367-B there are some (parcels of land) with 15 titles, 15 owners who are fighting."
He says he does not know how surveyors modify the boundary lines of properties in the tourist areas, where there are many cases of fake documents. He said, "For this reason, before buying a property investors should come to the Registrar's Office and request the services of a surveyor in order to locate precisely the land they plan to purchase."
He bases his arguments on the fact that in Higuey parcel 367 has a series of land titles that do not have possession or a letter of title or proof, and therefore they do not know where their lands are located. He added, "In that parcel of land, the state still has 41,500,000 square meters of land, and even the state does not know where its land is, exactly."
He revealed that he recently sent seven falsification cases to Higuey and his staff is currently investigating six more cases with a view to charging the forgers. Casilla Minaya said: "Since there was an old cadastral designation and the law permits that with this number, in order, it is easier to change the number of a parcel of land and obtain the des-encumbrance on the land that is already clearly-titled and has its cadastral designation and boundaries."
Casilla Minaya warned that a lot of counterfeiting operations operate around the Superior Land Court, supposedly by notaries based in the area known as "La Placita".
He said, "That is where the fakes are made. We are investigating and there is one particular notary who has not been suspended by the Supreme Court, but is on trial, namely Trigo Fondeur, who legalizes the documents that pass through "La Placita" which is next to the Higher Land Court."
Casilla Minaya revealed that the land courts are not dealing with penal cases or establishing penalties for the falsification of land titles. The situation is motivated by the fact that the new Law on Real Estate Registration repealed all of the penal dispositions that the old Law 1542 had on Land Titles.
The Law, in Article 113 says that generally the penal actions of the Land Court are common law actions. At the same time only four violations are mentioned in real estate jurisdiction: perjury, interruption of publicity and moving the boundary stakes, which are called infractions of little account and not punished to the same extent as faking documents.

Free zone dismissals
Jose Torres, director of the National Association of Free Zones has confirmed that thousands of industrial free zone workers are being let go as a consequence of reduced contracting by US apparel companies. The dismissals primarily affect free zones in Santiago, La Vega and Moca in the north of the country. Behind it all is a slump in US clothing sales. The slump comes at a time when DR exports were already losing competitiveness due to high production costs in the DR, such as expensive power and rising labor costs. Torres said that the government needed to declare exporting as a national priority, and take action to strengthen the export sector.
Grupo M president Fernando Capellan said that the company had made severance payments to 2,700 employees out of a payroll of 11,300. Grupo M is the country's largest free zone consortium.
"The export sector is going through some very difficult times and unless policy decisions are taken that modify the current framework, the job losses could continue in other spheres of the industry," said Capellan. Grupo M is one of the most vertically integrated conglomerates in the Dominican industrial scene.
Listin Diario had reported that Grupo M alone had dismissed 4,000 employees working at several plants and offices in the DR and Haiti.
According to the newspaper, with the December job losses, an estimated 30,000 workers have lost their jobs in the free zone industries this year. Of those dismissed, 3,000 worked in the DR and 1,000 at the sister company in Haiti. All the affected workers have received their severance payments.

Mario Alvarez passes away
Don Mario Alvarez, 20-year long editor of Hoy newspaper and writer of the renowned Coctelera column, passed away yesterday at Corazones Unidos, where he had been hospitalized for several days. He was married to Altagracia Matilde Soto, and had three sons, Jaime Virgilio, Mario Virgilio and Emilio Virgilio. He was best known as Don Cuchito, and while he started his professional life as an accountant at the Royal Bank of Canada, he later moved on to journalism, working at La Nacion, El Caribe, El Nacional and Hoy newspapers. He is also noted for his work in promoting sports.

Navy files complaint on two survivors
The Navy says it will prosecute the two survivors of a recent illegal boat trip to Puerto Rico, where some 49 people who are believed to have paid up to US$10,000 for the trip are missing, feared dead. Diomito Rodriguez and Reynaldo Ramirez were rescued off the coast of the southwestern province of Pedernales and transferred to the Central Armed Forces Hospital. The Navy suspects them of having been the trip organizers. Press reports said that they showed signs of having walked for a long distance. Several family members of the missing passengers on the tragic boat trip are claiming that they were the organizers.

Expensive parking at Las Americas
The new owners of Las Americas International Airport have hiked the price of parking at Santo Domingo's main airport. While leaving the car at the airport for a week used to cost RD$610, the rate is now RD$10,080. The new rate is equivalent to RD$1 per minute. This means that leaving the car overnight will cost RD$1,440.
The previous rate was RD$20 per hour in the short-term parking area and RD$30 per hour in the normal parking area, RD$20 for the first hour and RD$10 for additional hours in the long-term parking area. Parking at the airport was so popular that it was difficult to find a spot.
The new management's decision comes as good news for the airport taxi drivers. With the former rates it was less expensive to leave one's car at the parking lot than to take taxis to and from the airport. Now the taxi option is cheap compared to the hiked rates. A taxi charges around US$30 to drive into Santo Domingo.

Rains expected this week
The National Meteorological Office (ONAMET) is forecasting light rains and unusually strong wave action along the Atlantic Coast, Samana Bay and the Mona Passage early this week. The cool temperatures are set to continue. According to ONAMET, the flow of winds from the east/northeast is continuing across the country, bringing humidity and continuing rains to most areas, especially the northeast, north and northwest.
On the other hand, a frontal system along the Windward Passage is moving slowly to the east. Finally, although the high-pressure system in the North Atlantic is weakening and moving away, it will produce waves requiring small crafts to remain in port.

Baseball round up
On Friday night the Gigantes del Cibao ensured themselves a place in the playoffs by defeating the Leones del Escogido 8-2 in the Quisqueya Stadium in Santo Domingo. In San Pedro de Macoris, the Tigres del Licey defeated the pesky Estrella Orientales 7-4 in the Tetelo Vargas Stadium. In Santiago, the Toros del Este came all the way from La Romana to beat up on the reigning champions Aguilas Cibaenas 5-1, as Jose Capellan gave up just two hits to the Aguilas in six innings of great pitching. On Saturday, Omar Beltre threw well and the Toros defeated the tottering Leones del Escogido 8-2 and reached the magic number 25 in victories. In San Pedro de Macoris, the Aguilas climbed out of a 0-2 deficit to come back and defeat their arch enemies the Estrellas Orientales 6-5, surviving a late inning rally by the Green Team. In San Francisco de Macoris, the Gigantes del Cibao fell to the Tigres del Licey 9-8 in a game that went on without incident after the big fight just a few days ago. In Sunday's action, the "eternal rivals", the Tigres and the Leones saw battle yet again, and this time the lowly Leones roared and defeated the Tigres 5-1, giving new manager Jose Offerman his first taste of defeat as the Licey manager.
In San Francisco de Macoris, the Gigantes del Cibao beat up on the Aguilas, 9-4, in what was a tremendous pitcher's duel for six innings. The lack of a reliable reliever forced manager Felix Fermin to invent Jose Lima as a stopper and he leaked! Japan's Hiroshi Kisanoki struck out 12, earning the team's victory. In La Romana, the Toros defeated the Estrellas 7-3.
As a result of last night's action, here are the standings:
Team W-L Avg. Games Behind
GIGANTES 26 - 19 .578 --
TOROS 26 - 19 .578 --
LICEY 24 - 21 .533 2.0
AGUILAS 24 - 21 .533 2.0
ESCOGIDO 21 - 24 .467 5.0
ESTRELLAS 15 - 30 .333 11.0
No games are scheduled for tohight.
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